Press Freedom Watchdogs Urge for Release of Jailed Myanmar Reporter
International press freedom advocates urged Myanmar to immediately and unconditionally release journalist Hmu Yadanar Khet Moh Moh Tun and to cease imprisoning journalists for their journalistic work.
The reporter for the independent Myanmar Pressphoto Agency was sentenced to three years in prison in December on charges of spreading fake news. On May 26, she was handed an additional sentence of 10 years with hard labor for alleged terror financing, as reported by The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that was citing the agency's editor J Paing.
The organization highlighted that Moh Moh Tun has been held in Yangon's Insein Prison since her arrest on December 5, 2021. She was covering an anti-coup rally in Yangon's Kyimyindaing township when soldiers fired upon and killed several protesters.
"She and fellow Myanmar Pressphoto Agency photographer Kaung Sett Lin were both seriously injured when authorities rammed a military vehicle into the anti-coup protest," CPJ stated, noting that Moh Moh Tun sustained head and leg injuries requiring surgery.
According to her editor J Paing, Moh Moh Tun has been in a wheelchair for much of her incarceration until her initial conviction. However, earlier this year, doctors at the prison hospital determined that she needed a second leg operation, the outcome of which CPJ was unable to verify.
"Myanmar journalist Hmu Yadanar Khet Moh Moh Tun's harsh sentencing is an outrage, and the charges against her must be dropped immediately," said Shawn Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asia representative. He emphasized that Myanmar's junta must cease using terrorism and anti-state charges to suppress press freedom and called for the release of all imprisoned journalists.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF), an international non-profit organization advocating for freedom of information, also called for the immediate release of Moh Moh Tun. RSF urged the UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, to examine her case and push for new sanctions against Myanmar's military leaders.
"By imposing this additional ten-year sentence on Hmu Yadanar, the military junta led by Gen. Min Aung Hlaing has yet again demonstrated the extraordinary scale of the tyranny to which reporters are subjected in Myanmar," said Daniel Bastard, Head of RSF's Asia-Pacific desk.
According to RSF, Hmu Yadanar Moh Moh Tun is one of 70 journalists and media workers currently imprisoned in Myanmar. The country ranks low at 173rd out of 180 countries in the RSF 2023 World Press Freedom Index.
RSF emphasized the significant risks faced by journalists in Myanmar, including the dangers of imprisonment, torture, and murder. The country has become one of the world's largest jailers of journalists, second only to China, and has the highest rate of journalists imprisoned per capita.